The eastern-most island in the Windward chain of the Caribbean islands, Barbados has long been known as a popular tourist destination. However, Barbados offers far more than just beautiful beaches and tropical scenery. Barbados was originally settled by the Arawak Indians, but the island developed into a colony with an abundance of British characteristics, a rich history, and a diversity of cultures and people. Today a blend of African, English and North American cultures exist in Barbados, only traces of the island's original settlers can be found.
Archaeological evidence substantiates that, prior to 1625, Barbados had been inhabited by the Arawaks and Caribs, but there was no evidence of them when the English arrived in 1625. In fact, the only sign of life on the island was the scampering of wild hogs, and as the English noticed the un-graded land, Barbados was immediately seen as a golden opportunity for agricultural prosperity. Once colonized, Barbados' favorable climate, rich soils and uncultivated flat land became a fruitful island with the growth of such crops as cotton, tobacco and yams. Perhaps the most important facet of the agricultural history of Barbados is the switch from growing cotton and tobacco to the more prosperous growth of sugar cane.
Today, as a result of its climatic and geological conditions, only sugar remains the chief export of Barbados.
Divided into 11 parishes, in which a diverse landscape exists, Barbados is unlike many other Caribbean islands - it is not volcanic. The island gradually grew out of the sea when earth movements pushed two plates together and forced the ocean floor to break the surface. As a result of this tectonic action, Barbados is a mixture of flat land, rolling hills and steep cliffs. Much of the island is composed of coral or limestone, and is without an abundance of surface water as a result of these permeable substances. Thus, there is a scarcity of ponds, rivers and streams in Barbados, despite a sufficient amount of rainfall. There is, however, an abundance of beaches.
With a skilled and highly motivated workforce, Barbados provides a business atmosphere comparable to most other Westernized countries. Reasonable basic wages and moderate fringe benefits, coupled with high productivity and low turnover rates results in a highly efficient workforce.
Although Barbados is a predominantly agricultural country, the economic base in Barbados has seen a shift from producing and exporting sugar to a more service-oriented economy. Focusing on data processing, financial services, information technology and tourism, Barbados has seen a broadening of foreign investment as the island provides an attractive arena for a variety of foreign-owned or joint- venture activities.
Providing a stable location for the business world, Barbados benefits from a long tradition of political and social stability, a skilled workforce and superior infrastructure. Recently, Barbados has become a preferred low tax destination for international businesses and the government has focused heavily on improving the investment atmosphere.